|What's Your Sign? Part 2: Running of the Bull|
|What: The Avengers show up on AIM Island to bust some heads. Someone beat them to it.|
"ETA 6 minutes to Boca Caliente."
The Quinjet is cruising at Mach 2 over Cuba, stealth systems fully engaged. There's minimal turbulance. JARVIS has already announced a balmy 92 degrees for their arrival with winds coming in from the SSW at 17 mph.
Unfortunately, this is not a vacation.
AIM Island appears on the horizon. The Avengers are here to recover a slew of purported doomsday devices recently purchased by the Advanced Idea Mechanics group during a black market fire sale. Details are slim; whether these things are actually capable of real destruction is debatable.
They were pretty heavily discounted, after all.
Still, the threat is a serious one, and one that needs to be dealt with both swiftly and quietly. The island's existence is one of the worst-kept secrets in the criminal business- sort of like Area 55, except with guys in beekeeper suits instea of, y'know, aliens.
"I am detecting multiple sensor sweeps. Prepare for imminent contact. As such, I have turned on the fasten seatbelt light. Please remain seated, thank you."
..."Uh, was that a joke?" Clint looks around. He doesn't see a light.
Tigra has learned not to take such warnings lightly. Sure, it might be a joke, but she straps in, just case, lest she be tumbling about the interior of the 'jet. "Gonna err on the side of caution, myself," she says to Clint. "Tony takes it personally when I tear up the upholstery with my claws, trying to hold on." She adjusts her straps and looks around at the others.
How in Hel did LOKI, of all people, get aboard the Quinjet of all places? But there is he, standing where Thor normally stand, arms crossed the way the Thunderer normally does when he's aggitated. By the unhappy frown, that chills his pale features, the Trickster is likewise unhappy. Maybe it was some of the looks he's been getting Maybe it's something else. Maybe it has to do with the dark circles under his eyes and the paleness of his lips. Maybe Mjolnir clipped to his right hip is just too heavy for him. Maybe he's finally realized the horned helmet is just plain gaudy.
What they need, what they definitely need, is a leader and a plan of attack. What they have is a Quinjet full of heroes, which is not so bad. Natasha Romanoff is not now nor has she ever really been a leader of men, but she's nevertheless trying to work out a decent battle plan for the near future. For Tigra, Clint, and Probably Almost Certainly Not Loki.
She gives the god a dark and distrustful glance from the corner of her eye. "JARVIS," she says, "can you pinpoint any centralized power source, reactor, security node, anything?" Assuming they get that close. Which is a little bit of an assumption. She has a strap around her waist, but it has a quick-release for in case (all right, let's face it, /when/) -- she wants to jump on the back of the plane. Or on the back of another plane.
Pepper Potts isn't actually on the quinjet, though it might briefly feel like she is. She's back in a special 'communications center' room of Stark Tower, watching and listening in on everything with JARVIS's help. And, even though this likely isn't detectable over the comm lines, Arrow is here with her, though very likely more for the dog's sake than for hers. "JARVIS, what's the nature of those scans? Do any of them resemble weapons tracking systems?" She waits with outward patience, knowing that the AI is multitasking something fierce at this point and not wanting to demand more of the system's processor cycles than are necessary. "Natasha, he's working on that now."
The clouds part and there it is, a tiny dot on the horizon. A tiny dot that is rapidly approaching, actually. "Multiple heavily-shielded generators with a central nuclear reactor. I am also detecting surface-to-air missiles, hard-light based shields and- ah, they've locked onto us. Taking evasive action, please hold on."
Something goes whistling through the air as the Quinjet swerves into a roll. Several more missiles are being tracked on the front window's HUD, and JARVIS deploys countermeasures. "AIM is scrambling three X-32s. I will attempt to lead them away from the island."
Alarms blare. The rear doors begin to open.
"ETA to drop-zone, 27 seconds."
Another alarm. Proximity warning. JARVIS is forced to pull the Quinjet up suddenly, and when the oncoming missile hits one of the flares, it sends the jet spinning. "17 seconds. I am unable to keep on-course. Recommend immediate drop. My apologies."
Clint makes a face- he looks kind of peaish, actually. So when the Quinjet rights itself, he's the first to hit the quick-release and dash to the back. "I knew I should've stayed home today!"
Oh, look. They're over the beach. Maybe it's a vacation after all.
As they roll, Tigra briefly hums "Dancing on the Ceiling." When the rear door opens, sne gets ready to undo her own straps. "JARVIS, you owe me a damned fine cup of tea when this is over," she tells the AI. "Provide that and I'll overlook everything else." She darts towards the back, running low, almost on all fours, to keep out of the way of the others.
Loki grunts as the roll begins, moving to hover while his left hand reaches out to catch one of the 'oh shit' bars. When thing settle down and the quinjet lands, Loki settles back to the 'floor' and moves toward hte rear as well.
Natasha whacks her own quick-release just as the roll goes through its last few degrees, lightly pouncing from wall to ceiling to floor to the back of the Quinjet. Evidently she's ready to jump out after that possibly annoying display of acrobatics. "So. Down low, serpentine, /try/ not to get the Quinjet blown up. Pepper, if I die, you can't have my shoes. This should motivate you to keep us alive, yes?"
"Tigra, pick your poison and I'll make you a pot myself," Pepper replies before JARVIS can. "Natasha, we don't wear the same size, so you had better come back. Clint, Arrow keeps pawing at me. Does that mean he needs to go outside or something? Odinson, how are you doing?" She looks at the various displays in the comm center, trying to make sense of what some of them say. Mostly, she keeps her attention on the satellite images that JARVIS is supplying for her. It's the closest she can get to actually seeing whawt's going on.
"Next time you guys talk me into this sort of thing, /I/ get to fly the plane," Clint says into his comm-unit as he free-falls from 10,000 feet, casual as you please. At least he's not on the freakin' roller-coaster jet. He rode on too many during his time, bad associations, etc etc. Don't ask. Carnie stuff.
He turns in mid-air until he can see the little "friendly" target symbols. The spider, cat paw, and a little lightning bolt with a question mark next to it. Yeah, he has way too much time on his hands. "Last to the beach buys the first round when we get back!"
That beach is approaching very quickly. And it's hard to tell with the yellow suits, blending into the sand and all, but there's definitely going to be a welcoming party. The heat signs pop up on the sat-feeds. Multiple hostiles headed towards the group's projected landing zone.
More alarms, though Pepper's the only human around to hear them this time. "The X-32s have changed course and are targetting the landing party," JARVIS supplies over the comms, helpfully.
"Shit," Clint mutters, pulling his hand away from the release on his 'chute. They've got maybe a minute before they're red smears on the beach. His bow snaps open as he pulls it out. "I got this, don't worry! Is he kind of whining when he paws at you, Pep? One of his toys is probably stuck under something."
Tigra flings herself out into the jetstream, arms and legs spread to give her more control over her descent, putting physics studies to actual use. She aims herself towards the beach, looking ahead to pick out some different landing spots. And at JARVIS's warning, she starts trying to vary her descent, for all the good it'll do. "There are times I wish I was something other than a -cat- person!"
"I'm fine, Pepper," Loki replies in a low mutter which almost sounds like a hiss in this slight frame. When Clint jumps so does the Trickster, pulling Mjolnir from his belt. His green eyes flick about and it's to Tigra that the Asgard Trickster flies. He reaches out to collect her with a thin arm about the waist so that he can slow their decent. Which Loki will manage, with a grunt and more than a little show of effort.
"How many?" asks Loki of the enemies that are inbound.
Leap and wheeeeeeee. Black Widow dives out of the Quinjet, rocketing down toward the ground before she pulls her chute. Even she's not quite enough of a badass to just leap out of a plane without some way to control her descent, though the temptation exists to put webbing between her arms and sides so she can glide down like a flying squirrel (patent pending). She lands lightly enough, detaching herself from the chute and hitting the sand with a soft 'pff'. And she's immediately moving, rolling to a crouch and looking for a treeline or an enemy or something.
And this is why wireless headsets were created. Pepper gets up from her seat in the Avengers communication center in Stark Tower and starts looking for the toy that Arrow is wanting rescued while still staying involved. "JARVIS, is there any way to get the Quinjet to cover their descent? Th..thunderclap or something might be helpful, Odinson. JARVIS says there are three, um, plane things, and fourteen people on the ground." Ah, there it is. She pulls the pizza-printed frisbee out from under a console and lets the retriever take it from her hand before returning to the displays. "Tony? How soon do you think you'll be caught up with them? They're about to take fire."
And just about the time Pepper asks, there is a contrail stretching behind a glint in the sky. Something can be seen eminating from the glint and first on jet explodes. Then the other mere seconds after that. Then a voice crackles over the shared com-link, it can heard but also the distinct sound of Motorhead covering the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" can also be heard over the comm. "About three seconds ago, Pepper." there's a couple of tones heard, then Tony's voice again, "I got telemetry on Tigra, I'll have 60 feet before she hits the drink."
Two of the jets explode, and yeah, that's cool, but does anyone notice the one that takes a nosedive into the Atlantic?
Localized EMP arrow. Booyah. Hawkeye pulls his chute and glides down to a totally graceful landing. Quickly obscured by his parachute billowing over top of him.
Eh. Not red jam on the beach. He'll take it.
Fourteen AIM agents come barrelling towards them, all with some form of ridiculously looking sci-fi weaponry in their hands, and as Hawkeye nocks an arrow they- go running by?
"It's gonna blow!" one of them screams, and sure enough...
The entire island shakes, and a fireball erupts into the air from somewhere behind the treeline. "Does that, uh, look suspiciously mushroom-shaped to anyone?" Clint asks, worriedly. "Tell me that wasn't the nuclear reactor."
Considering they're not dead in the next couple of seconds, no, probably not. Hawkeye still glances back and forth at- "Uh. Widow, where's Tigra and-"
He looks up. Oh. This is going to be awkward.
Loki flies toward the beachfront, Tigra held to him with one arm. This would look far more heroic if he were earing a red cape instead of a green surcoat. When Pepper asks for some thunder, Loki frowns lightly. He really could... but that runs the risk of electrocuting Tigra... and himself. Loki's body is probably NOT as storm resistant as Thor's is.
"Was that -- " Natasha hesitates a moment, but after a moment: "No. We're not dead. That wasn't the reactor." Which should make everyone a lot happier and more comfortable, yes? Yes. She's trusting in Tigra to either catch herself or... well, for Tigra to catch herself, because she doesn't trust Loki/Not Loki to be Not Loki. She'll let Pepper explain the situation; at the moment, there's fourteen AIM guys... er, running straight past them. Just because they're behind the heroes, though, doesn't make them any less dangerous. She wheels around, calls through her comm: "Hawkeye, have you got the scaredy-AIM?" She says it as she starts heading for the treeline, because heroes apparently run /toward/ explosions.
And, out of a brief feeling of benevolence: "Tony, that's possibly Thor in the green; try not to kill him."
Pepper Potts gasps and looks away from the display in front of her when the explosion temporarily whites-out the satellite feed. She's about to ask if everyone's okay when she hears Clint's voice followed by Natasha's. Thank god. Wait, what? Did Tasha REALLY just say that? She thinks a good few choice curse words, then says quickly, "Odinson is on our side, but whomever triggered that explosion isn't. Please focus, people." Maybe after that little gem of info, her recent insistence on addressing Loki as 'Odinson' makes more sense? A single sharp bark gets her to flinch and look at Arrow. That HAD to have carried over the comm line.
Iron Man is streaking towards Tigra, when he sees a green clad figure grabbing her. "Wait, that looks like..is that /LOKI/? And what, Loki's on OUR side? No wait, Thor's in Loki's clothes? Isn't that considered /drag/ in some places? Asgardians are into kink, it'd seem. So do I blow him up or not - he's got Tigra." he holds his fire until he gets more info, "JARVIS, find out who the hell that is that has Tigra!"
As Loki nears the beach, Tigra leaps from his arms and hits the sand running. She's got something's scent in her nose, obviously.
"If it was, I better get a cool mutant power out of it. All I'm saying." Hawkeye leans back, pointing his bow up into the air, then *THWIP*. An arrow goes sailing, arcing, then hits the sand with a soft *THUNK*. Right as the group of fleeing AIM agents run over it.
Onomatopoeia of gas releasing. *HISS* maybe? Anyway, a cloud of anesthetic gas momentarily covers the beekeepers, before the wind clears it away, and they're all on the ground. *SNORE*
Then Hawkeye's in the trees. Metaphorically speaking. He's actually just running on the ground like the normal person he is. "Okay, we know where they're holding the weapons, the tracer's still active so it didn't get blown up, let's all head that wa- what did you do to my dog?!" He stops momentarily but it's impossible to do anything about, now, so he's off again.
Hawkeye's right, though. There's a target on everyone's HUD (well, those that have HUDs) leading them deeper into the island's jungles, hopefully towards a non-exploding warehouse. The mission here is to safely acquire what weapons cannot be safely destroyed, and then to destroy the rest. As well as take out as many AIM agents as possible on the way. There aren't really any, though; in fact, as they exit out into a clearing, there are no hostiles in sight.
However, there are several dead AIM members scattered about with various nasty-looking wounds. And there is a giant hole into the warehouse where a door once was. Like someone ran right through it.
"Loki is Thor or something, AIM's a bunch of wimps, and we /seriously/ have more important things to deal with, guys."
Why bother running when you can fly? Loki flies after Clint and Natasha, keeping pace with them as his green surcoat slaps and flutters behind him. Over the com, his voice sounds more than a little annoyed. It makes his tenor a bit sharper and tenser than... well, who here's heard Loki's usual?
"Pepper, remind me to thank everyone for their descresion(sp)," states the Odinson grumpily, tone all but dripping with Loki's sarcasism, as he flies after the spies, drops himself to the ground, and starts running after. Long legs and a thin frame make it easier for him to manuveur here than trying to gust himself through the trees after them, but he still moves slightly less gracefully than Loki was known for.
"What steel needs ripping through, Clint Barton?" asks the Trickster, staying focused on the task at hand. At least this is keeping the Visions at bay, for the moment.
"You'd prefer Tony shot you out of the sky?" Natasha retorts, adding: "Apparently being in your brother makes you snappish. Who knew?" She's keeping half an eye on him now. Always now. Because either Thor is getting a little more like his brother every day or Loki is doing an almost flawless impersonation of Thor on a bad day. Which. He's the god of tricksters. He would do.
She darts through the forest with unnatural grace nevertheless, pausing momentarily outside that large hole and narrowing her eyes. A few things could make a bang that big, and a list starts running through her mind. Oh, it had better /not/ be...
"That's not a conventional door," she deadpans. Nevertheless, the little spider in Clint's HUD is spidering her way inside and giving the place a wary peek.
Pepper tries to get the playbowing retriever to calm down again by shushing at him, but he just barks another high-pitched 'play with me!' bark at her. "Nothing, Clint. He's just doing that 'throw the ball' thing again." When Clint reiterates Natasha's words about the Aesir, she just sighs and puts one hand over the mic on her headset while reaching for a tennis ball to toss for Arrow. "JARVIS, please tell me that no one, especially not anyone in SHIELD that Tony hasn't already approved, has access to this communication feed." She gives the tennis ball a light toss, and the dog chases after it with his claws scrabbling on the hard flooring. "Calculate the amount of force required to go through that door, and list individuals capable of it, please," she asks of the AI.
Iron Man sighs a bit over the comm, "okay, okay, Greensleeves gets a pass for now but when this is over somebody better get things straight with me or I'm gonna make something go boom. Just sayin'." he beat pause, "I can take care of the door, if you guys can give me about five feet of clearance on each side." as he's lining up his shot, a thought occurs to him. "Pepper, I just outfitted you with a multi-million dollar coach bag. Why are playing Cesar Milan?"
Natasha does her spidering, and Clint does his... hawking? Ehh. He finds a suitable perch just inside the warehouse and covers her from above. "She's got a point," he adds, aside, and then, "Someone else beat you to it, Thorki. Which is your new name, b-t-w."
Yes he just said btw. As in the letters. That just happened.
The warehouse is empty of hostiles and everyone on the staggeringly long list JARVIS pulls up for Pepper. Also, this isn't officially a SHIELD op, so there shouldn't be anyone listening in.
Might want to scrub the audio file afterward, though. Just in case.
There's not a lot to find. Aside for the weapons they came here for, of course, which is a good thing. A lot of them have been carelessly tossed aside, which, considering what some of them are made of... a little concerning. They're not overrun with demons from another dimension and their bodies haven't slowly begun to morph into goo, yet, so probably okay? "I... think we're good?" Clint says, after a beat. "Do a perimeter check, maybe?" That's directed at the guys who can fly. He's comfortable where he is, thanks.
Aside for the general chaotic state the warehouse is in, on the lower floor, there's a particular vault that has been ripped into. Looks like the work of the same guy who came barreling in through the front door. And the vault's empty.
That's probably not so good.
"Okay, let's do some inventory. I'm so glad I signed up for this op, I'm having a blast, how about you guys?"
Loki comes up to a stop, panting very faintly, next to Clint, green eyes turning toward the incoming Iron Man.
"You and the Director, both, Metal Man. For now, we must focus on the task at hand," Loki hisses back, still frustrated and annoyed and just straight up tired. When he rushed off on Pepper earlier in the day, he really hadn't made much head way in sorting things out. He's hoping this bit of adrenaline will waylay things for a bit. Plus, maybe Tony will.. forget? Not that the mortal's ever shown himself capable of forgetting anything, but still. An aesir can hope? Without the horned helm (because Clint stole it the rat-bastard! <3), there's nothing keeping Loki's raven-colored hair from his eyes. He reaches up to press it back with his left hand. His eyes lift to the hawk in his perch.
"Thorki? No. I dislike this moniker. Odinson will work for the time being," snips the Trickster, as he lifts himself from the ground to do as bid and fly a perimeter patrol. Yes, Thor is having a really bad day while being in Loki or Loki's doing a really fine job of Thor having a really bad day.
There's enough distrust in Natasha to, well, power a small nuclear reactor. "We didn't just come to be FedEx," she murmurs, slinking toward the broken vault and skulking toward its entrance. "Tony," she continues through the comm. "Can your sensors pick up any sign of what might have been in there? Radioactivity, energy signatures... dust...?"
A disadvantage of staying behind: once people entered that building the satellite feed JARVIS set up for her is useless. So, pretty much all she has left to do is toss the tennis ball for Arrow, who gamely keeps returning it for her to throw again. "He was already here when the call came in, Tony. There wasn't time for Clint to take him home. And he growled at Dmitri from the front desk. Besides, I thought you told me I still needed more practice with the whole ... flying thing?"
Iron Man hovers severeal feet in the air as he looks over things. "JARVIS, get me some readings here." a few seconds later, "All I can see is a concentration of cosmic radiation that's already dissipating on the east side of the island. There's residual traces on the edges of the doorframe, where it was ripped off and down in the vault. There's also some..bovine fur..on the edges of the door. What did a cow do to piss these guys off?" -- his voice digitizes as he slowly lowers himself to and says to Pepper over the comm, "Well, livefire is the quickest teacher, so I've learned so far."
Aww, but Clint liked Thorki! Man. "Debbie downer," he mutters to himself, and then he leaps down to the warehouse floor. "I guess I'll take care of this."
And then he starts sorting doomsday weapons into piles. One for "Keep" and one for "Trash". JARVIS is already bringing the Quinjet back around for pickup.
MEANWHILE, OVER WHERE IRON MAN DETECTED A CONCENTRATION OF COSMIC RADIATION:
"I have it," Taurus says as he stomps aboard the submarine. Big bull, tiny spaces, not so great. He hesitates, but one sharp look from Virgo has him lowering his big horned head and thumping inside.
"Three pieces left," she murmurs, and then turns.
Across the beach, a bush shakes, and Tigra's head emerges briefly before she darts off into the trees.